It was a mostly quiet night for the Chowan Board of Commissioners on Monday, Nov. 15.

On the agenda were two presentations, a handful of budget amendments and a few points of timely business.

Presenting first was Steve Gabel, Area Specialized Agent for Aquaculture at the Chowan County Extension office.

The board had previously expressed interest in a more detailed presentation regarding local aquaculture.

Gabel elaborated on the efficient and less costly farming techniques of striped bass in eastern North Carolina, most notably at one facility in Aurora, in Beaufort County.

“They’ve been breeding striped bass in Aurora for 28 years, domesticating and raising them. It’s very successful and has resulted in doubled growth rates for the fish because of this breeding program,” Gabel said. “They use no hormones and spawn naturally, mostly at night.”

Commissioner Alex Kehayes asked Gabel how he would be able to tell if the bass on his plate was raised on a farm or fished from the wild.

“If I went up to Murray Nixon’s, how would I know if the fish is from aquaculture or from the sound?” Kehayes inquired.

“You can ask them [the staff] and typically they’ll know where it came from. It depends on the season and what’s available at the time. It’s often a mix of both [wild and domesticated],” Gabel responded.

Taking the podium next was Cord Palmer, coordinator for both the information technology department as well as emergency management. Palmer presented the board with an annual report on both of his departments.

Palmer updated the board on the upcoming availability of a mobile dock lift for the county, one that will be funded during the 2022-2023 federal budget year.

A mobile dock lift is a street legal, towable, diesel-powered lift that enables loading and unloading of any vehicle between zero and 58 inches without the need for a dock or lift gates.

Palmer says that the lift, upon purchase and receiving, will be stored at the Northeastern Regional Airport in Edenton.

“It can help load things onto a tractor trailer and it’s a big benefit to any county that uses it,” Palmer said.

Palmer also urged the board to consider purchasing a camper, which is being disposed of by a neighboring county. In the past, Chowan County utilized a now-defunct camper for temporary housing, an umpire locker room for sporting events, an office for a bicycle tour and first responder relief at events.

“Is this something we can use?” Palmer asked the commission. “We can maintain it until it’s no longer usable. Just something to think about.”

Expanding upon the topic of wireless emergency alerts, Palmer explained to the board that mobile devices receiving localized emergency alerts — say for a tornado, flash flooding or amber alert — will see updated messages in the future.

“They are increasing the character limit of the alerts from 90 to 360 characters and improving the accuracy for those receiving the alert,” Palmer said. “They [The government] are dividing messages into smaller census block areas and the messages will be preserved rather than disappearing.”

Segueing into the information technology portion of the presentation, Palmer noted that broadband is still a hot topic in Chowan County.

“We made a presentation to the Edenton Rotary Club on Oct. 28 about broadband and it was very well received,” Palmer said.

At the Chowan County courthouse, Palmer’s IT department uninstalled the original 1978 phone system to replace it with a new one. Down at the airport, Palmer’s department improved the existing office layout — which was composed of old CRT computer monitors — with enhanced high definition flatscreens. IT also put together a system for cord and cable consolidation to provide a more ergonomic space for employees and pilots to monitor weather conditions.

Moving into the more timely business of the evening, Kehayes made a motion to approve a resolution that would be drafted and sent to the N.C. state legislature. The resolution would request more appropriations to all 100 North Carolina counties in response to increasing family violence and caseloads at DSS.

The motion passed unanimously.

Speaking on the upcoming Dec. 20 meeting, Chairman Bob Kirby stated that unless there is pressing business to attend to, the meeting has historically been cancelled.

Kirby asked County Manager Kevin Howard if there was anything that needed to be tended to around that time. Howard assured him there was not.

Commissioner Ron Cummings put forth a motion to cancel the meeting. The board voted unanimously to cancel the second meeting in December, which leaves Dec. 6 as the final board of commissioners meeting of the year.

The final issue discussed by the board was brought to the table by Chair Kirby.

Kirby spoke to Sheriff Edward Basnight, who was in attendance, about new equipment he had spotted in a sheriff’s vehicle on Virginia Road.

Basnight confirmed that three radar speed guns have been installed in sheriff’s vehicles, one for an investigator and two for deputies. Kirby hoped that making this announcement public would deter some locals from speeding.

“Thanks to the commissioners here we are able to purchase them,” Basnight said. “Highway Patrol is short staffed in this area. We get reports almost daily of people speeding through neighborhoods, so we are able to respond to calls correctly.”

With a motion from Commissioner Tray Taylor to adjourn, the meeting adjourned with unanimous consent.

Thadd White is Group Editor of the Bertie Ledger-Advance, Chowan Herald, Perquimans Weekly, The Enterprise & Eastern North Carolina Living. He can be reached via email at